Ethiopia: Gondar

Gondar, Abyssinia’s capital for 250 years was founded by Emperor Fasilides in 1635 after a century of continuous warfare against Muslim invaders. It ushered in a golden era for the Abyssinian empire during which the arts, architecture and even animal rights thrived.

Gondar’s Royal Enclosure is a city within the city, home to six castles built by Gonderian emperors in the 17th century as well as a Great Hall, a concert hall, Royal Stables, Royal Archives. Drawing on Portuguese, Byzantine and Mughal influences, the Royal Enclosure is a wondrous and eclectic compound which, in its heyday, was a place of splendour and learning.

In 1888, the Mahdi of Sudan razed Gondar to the ground while Emperor Yohannis I was fighting the Italians on the Somaliland border. By the time Yohannis returned to Gondar and defeated the Mahdists, there was little of the city left and a new capital was built: Addis Ababa.

Today the remnants of Gondar’s past glory stand like huge silent ghosts in the Royal Enclosure.

view of Gondar city from the Goha hotel
castle of Emperor Fasilides
castle of Emperor Iyasu
Great Hall
ceiling of the church of Debre Birhan, one of the few to have survived the Mahdist invasion